This exercise was a bit of a disappointment. This was partially due to my poor marking of where the fire was but it was also pretty chaotic. I’m not sure who was the IC, who should have been coordinating the trucks. I didn’t hear anyone in charge on the radio. (Matty was sector commander). Technically it should have been the first crew leader to arrive at the fire. If he/she felt they weren’t up to it they should have passed it on to someone else. The IC should then have organized the trucks into a tight convoy knocking out the fire. With coordination the four trucks would have probably extinguished the fire in one run, whereas the disjointed action meant the fire would have probably relit after each truck went by.
I was surprised all the LTs turned up at the fire without being prepared. I’m sure they wouldn’t actually turn up to the face of the fire and then stop and get the pump and hoses working and in place, which is what happened on the night, The resulting traffic jam meant the 4.4 probably couldn’t see where the fire was supposed to be and went off and did its own thing. This was unfortunate as part of the exercise was to see where the 4.4 drove in relation to the fire line. If it was a small fire, as in this case, it could probably have driven over it and used the spray bar to knock out. The downside of doing this is the crew on the back would not have had a target to work on. There was later debate over whether to use the monitor, It is clearly DFES policy not to use the monitor on grass fires, but as was pointed out the hoses are about a meter too short to get really good coverage on the other side of the truck, although they can reach across but don’t get a good angle back or front. (Perhaps we should get these extended.) DFES policy, by the book, is one person on the static line and the other on the radio providing support. I know from experience it’s much more satisfying getting on the monitor or the other static line rather than the radio. But….
There was also debate (at least among the trainers) as to which side of the fire the trucks should have been on. Another judgement call depending on the fire itself, but generally attacking upwind on the black would make more sense, unlike my suggested route. But again, it would really depend on the circumstances.
Some were practicing good hose technique, aiming along the fire line, maximizing water coverage, while others were shooting across the fire, thereby wasting water.
From a distance it looked like the auxiliary drafting and truck delivery went smoothly and quickly.
This went better, with the IC doing a good job of dealing with a very difficult location. I think all the radio work was indicative of a live situation and good practice.
A couple of points. I’m not sure anyone took a photo of the map. Perhaps all crew leaders should have done this so they had a reference with them. Doing the reccy, perhaps one or two should have been sent on foot to check out the buildings. I’m not sure a lookout was set. Given the fire was approaching it would have made sense having someone with a radio in the adjacent eastern field monitoring progress. I’m also not sure a safety zone was established.
I don’t think anyone talked to the manager who would have had lots of valuable information. For example, where was the most dangerous chemical on the site? It was sulphur dioxide. (Somewhat similar to mustard gas). If it caught fire we would all be in very serious danger. According to hazmat info, if it is in a fire a distance of 1k should be evacuated, I didn’t see anyone checking the hazmat warnings. (The phone app ERG 2016 has a great deal of very useful info.)
Perhaps the 4.4 should not have been at the far end of the alley. If the pallets at the other end had gone up, or the building burnt, it could have been trapped. Perhaps it would have been better for it to have been at the start of the alley. That way the monitor could have been ready for the pallets catching and the frozen CO2 tank. (If it was in a fire an 800m exclusion zone is supposed to be set up.) From that location one hose could have gone down to the end of the alley and then split. I think the other frozen CO2 tank on the fire side of the building was ignored. Someone should have been delegated to monitor it-especially with the overhanging trees,
I’m not sure what happened to our casualty. Obviously an unconscious person needs to be evacuated from the fire ground. Did anyone try to make a stretcher? Perhaps each truck needs something-webbing to stretch between the rake hoes or a blanket with grips that can be used in such a situation. In the past we might have used the old fire blankets but they are no more. I hope he was given oxygen.
I thought the auxiliaries did a good job of scouting out the area. However they should have identified the location of the output connectors on the tanks with the help of the manager.
Hindsight and 48 hours are wonderful things. As I mentioned above, we are mainly dealing in a world of greys rather than black and white. Rarely is there just one right answer. Overall I think it was a good job. Imagine how much harder it would have been at night, with the power out. There are perhaps 25 wineries in our area. It is only a matter of time. Thanks for your cooperation and good work.